Older black-and-white photo of John Michael Schmechel and Mary Lucille Schmechel embracing in an outdoor setting.
John Michael Schmechel and Mary Lucille Schmechel.
Every morning as long as we can remember, our dad read the obituaries before any other part of the newspaper, before the news or editorials or sports; he did the same with the Santa Barbara Independent.
So when our mom died on Aug. 31, 2020, and our then- 94-year-old dad could not accept the fact that the woman he had loved for almost 75 years was gone, we hesitated to publish her obituary. We knew it would devastate our father to see his wife’s name in the death notices. (He was in residential care at that time and told everyone she was at home.)
We decided to wait until he passed away, too, and write a joint obituary. Maybe it’s best this way because they were truly a love story. 
 John Michael (Mike) Schmechel was born in Carrington, North Dakota, to Warren and Dorothy (Walsh) Schmechel on May 13, 1926. His brother Paul followed a year later and his sister Patricia (Patty) the year after that.
The youngest, Rosemary, was born in 1930. That same year, the family moved to Los Angeles so two-year-old Patty could receive treatment at Children’s Hospital after she was diagnosed with polio.
Even though it was the Depression, they lived a comfortable life until their dad died a few days before Christmas in 1940 at the age of 45, a loss that deeply affected the entire family. Mike was 14 years old at the time; he carried his father’s obituary in his wallet the rest of his life.
 Everett and Mary (Steward) Humphrey lived in Baldwin Park, California, when their first child, Mary Lucille (Mary Lu) was born on May 21, 1928. Her only sibling, Edward (Eddie), was born two years later.
The family moved to Van Nuys, California, when the children were still quite young, and within a few years, they settled in Northridge, California, on almost an acre of land, not long before Everett went to work for Warner Brothers Studios, a job he kept until he retired.
Mike’s family also settled in the San Fernando Valley, which consisted mainly of rural farms and ranches in those days. It was long before freeways or tract houses or major grocery chains.
Mary Lu talked of playing in fields and orchards as a girl, and traveling on gravel and dirt roads. Her family shopped at Bert’s Market, a small country store where Bert greeted each of them by name.
Her parents raised chickens and her dad tilled their land with his small tractor. They grew vegetables and many fruit trees — apples, oranges, grapefruit, tangerines, plums, peaches, pears, and a walnut tree for her mom’s baking.
The Schmechel’s property in Canoga Park, California, almost mirrored the Humphrey’s in Northridge. Mike’s family lived on an acre populated with fruit trees, vegetables, chickens, and sometimes horses.
Mike loved to tinker. He restored motorcycles, including an Indian Chief and an Excelsior Super X, and rebuilt the engine of his first car (a 1929 Ford Model A) in his mom’s garage. He and his brother Paul also worked on ranches in the Valley throughout their teens, an experience they remembered fondly.
Both Mike and Mary Lu attended Canoga Park High School, but only knew each other by sight then. When their romance began, Mary Lu was engaged to the “boy next door,” but realized when she met Mike that he was the one.
They married on June 21, 1947, when Mike was barely 21. Mary Lu had turned 19 exactly one month before. Their daughter Suzie was born in September 1948, followed by Judy in June 1950 and John in July 1954.
When John was three months old, they moved to Santa Barbara, where Mike took a job as a firefighter at Station 8 on the airport. He was there during the Refugio Fire in 1955.
Mike later worked for Arden Farms and Mission Linen in Santa Barbara. At Arden, he delivered dairy products to restaurants, schools, stores and hospitals. He was very popular with friends and neighbors when he brought home 5-gallon drums of ice cream to share. 
Mary Lu did many things typical of 1950’s and ’60’s moms. She was a Brownie and Girl Scout leader, a poll worker during elections, and a PTA president.
Later, when she was looking for a way to earn money for her oldest daughter’s wedding, a neighbor (who was head of Transportation of Goleta Union Schools) coaxed her into working for him as a bus driver. She truly enjoyed working with the children, especially the ones with special needs.
After her boss died unexpectedly, she took over the part of his job that oversaw the school bus drivers.
Both Mike and Mary Lu made lifelong friends at their jobs. A few of those friends are still alive and remained supportive till the end and continue to be supportive of our family. 
In retirement, Mary Lu volunteered in the porter’s office at the Santa Barbara Mission. She also helped out as an Ironing Angel, and at times in the Mission archives and library. Mike volunteered as a church usher. And to Mary Lu’s delight, after retiring, he took over all the grocery shopping and cooking at home. 
Mike was a car guy, an electronics guy, and the neighborhood “fix-it” guy. He hated to throw anything away because “You never know when you might need it.”
He loved deals and would drive miles out of his way to save 2 cents on a gallon of gas. He had coupons for everything. Mike loved to cook and was good at it.
He was a great pinochle partner. He was a fan of musicals, both stage and film. He enjoyed socializing and traveling. He and Mary Lu explored the United States as they traveled together to visit friends and relatives in all directions from California to the East Coast.
Few people know that Mike owned a horse named Smoky when he got married, or that Mary Lu’s ancestors were among this country’s earliest English settlers. She was a direct descendant of five passengers on the Mayflower — Peter Browne, Richard Warren, William and Susanna (Jackson) White and their son, Resolved.
Mary Lu possessed a love of learning that was contagious. She was an avid reader and addicted to crossword puzzles. She was steadfastly devoted to the LA Dodgers, a passion she shared with her mother and grandmother, and passed down to her daughter and granddaughter, who has passed it onto her daughters.
Mary Lu loved children. Her sister-in-law used to say, “If there’s a crying baby, give it to Mary Lu and she will calm it.”
She rarely missed one of her local grandchildren’s sporting events. She was always eager to play board games and card games, especially with her grandchildren, who didn’t realize at the time that she was teaching them while they played.  
Mike and Mary Lu both enjoyed camping and often spent time at El Capitan State Park, something they could do even when Mike was working since it was a short drive up the coast from Santa Barbara.
Mary Lu’s family began camping there after it opened as a private campground in the 1930s and kept a travel trailer on the property year round before it became a state park in 1953. In the later ’50s and throughout the ’60s, the Schmechels spent a month or more at El Cap every year with their beloved neighbors, the Kramers, in the days before there were maximum-stay limits. It was the best part of the summer. 
Our parents would want people to know that their Catholic faith was foremost in their lives. And that family was important to them, not just their immediate family but all their relatives including in-laws and cousins (both first and second), and their many nieces and nephews.
Friendships mattered to them, from childhood, from school, from work, from church. Both of their best friends from childhood remained their best friends for life.
They had an old-fashioned sense of what it was to be a neighbor, and at each of the three homes they owned together, they made lifelong friends.
 Mike and Mary Lu were not perfect, Mike much less so than Mary Lu, but their love for each other was near perfect. They loved each other deeply and unconditionally. They respected each other and always treated each other as equals.
They might have disagreed at times but there were no loud arguments, no threats of leaving or divorce. They never spoke disparagingly about each other to family or friends. They always slept in the same bed until Mary Lu had to go into a hospital bed, and even then, Mike would make his way from their bedroom to the family room in the night to be next to Mary Lu and hold her hand. 
Mike died on Oct. 1, 2022 from kidney cancer at the age of 96. We believe he and Mary Lu are now together again, forever.